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Rising tuition fees could price out college students, report warns

The Higher Education Commission has called on the Office for Students to protect part-time and mature learners

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The Higher Education Commission has called on the Office for Students to protect part-time and mature learners

Rising degree tuition fees in colleges could have a “negative impact” on disadvantaged students’ ability to study, a new report has warned.

In particular, increasing fees could act as a deterrent to part-time and mature students, according to One Size Won’t Fit All: the Challenges Facing the Office for Students, a report published today by the Higher Education Commission.

The report follows a 10-month inquiry co-chaired by Lord Norton of Louth and Joy Carter, vice-chancellor of the University of Winchester.

'Engine for social mobility'

The report points out that delivery costs for HE in FE are often less than in university settings. But colleges which took part in the inquiry said they were looking at increasing their tuition fees.

Truro and Penwith College told the commission it was “moving to a full fee rate from 2017-18”, while NCG – the first college to receive taught degree-awarding powers – told the inquiry that it had undergone a “total rethink” on its pricing strategy, due to the “market not being price sensitive, particularly around the lower age group…You have to make sure the content is to date and the contact time is high, we have to stay industry relevant to do that, and that costs.” As a result, the group has increased its fees to a maximum of £7,900 and is “considering whether we move that up to £9,000 moving forward”, the report states.

It expresses concern about whether higher education will act as an “engine for social mobility”, and recommends that the Office for Students “monitors the implications of different delivery costs between HE and FE, not least in terms of enabling entry to part-time and mature students”.

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